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Manga / Video Girl Ai

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Youta Moteuchi is an Ordinary High-School Student whose father is always working abroad. Due to his bad luck with girls, he's nicknamed "Motenai" — "Dateless", and even worse for him, he's in love with a girl pretty much deemed as perfect, the beautiful and sweet Moemi Hayakawa. During a meeting, she tells him she likes Youta's best friend Takashi Niimai...and then Youta, instead of sulking or revealing his feelings, promises to help her get Takashi's love.

After making said promise and feeling like crap about it, Youta finds himself in front of a video rental store he has not seen before. The man in charge of the store says that, since Youta truly meant what he told Moemi, he deserves a prize borrowing one of the videos of the store. Its name is "I'll comfort you!" and has a beautiful girl on the cover.

Youta goes back to his Cool House, plays the video on his VCR...and then the girl pops out from the TV! Her name is Ai Amano, and she's come to help him with his woes. Unfortunately, Youta's VCR was broken, therefore Ai-chan's programming is seriously messed up. She lost a few cup sizes, she can barely cook, she's clumsy, she puts her feet in her mouth, she teases Youta mercilessly ...and for better or for worse, she develops feelings for him, when she's supposed to just counsel and console the boy, and this is just the start.

Video Girl Ai (電影少女,Den'ei Shojo?, lit. "Video Girl") is a manga series created by Masakazu Katsura and published in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump. It also has an anime adaptation. The manga is published in English by Viz Media. It was formerly published in the anthology Animerica Extra by Viz. It was started in 1989 and continued until 1992, and fifteen manga volumes were produced. The first 13 volumes tell Ai Amano's story. The last two volumes, which came years later, focus on a new video girl named Len, hence the new name for these two volumes Video Girl Len.

The Video Girl Ai anime is a six part OVA series which was produced by I.G. Tatsunoko. The series was released in 1992 by Jump Video. It roughly covers most of the material found in volumes 1 and 3 of the manga (and some of Volume 2). An obscure live-action movie was also made.

It was announced in November 2017 that Video Girl Ai will receive a live-action TV drama sequel in January 2018. Called Denei Shoujo ~VIDEO GIRL AI 2018~, it is set in 2018, 25 years after the original manga, with Shou Moteuchi, the nephew of the original protagonist Youta Moteuchi, as the new protagonist. After his parents' divorce, Shou has lived in his uncle Youta's house. Like his uncle almost 30 years before, he too has secretly fallen in love with a beautiful classmate, in this case a girl named Nanami Shibahara. However, Nanami has good feelings toward Shou's best friend Tomoaki Furuya, so the future of his romance is seemingly hopeless. One day, Shou finds a video tape. When playing it with a VCR coated with dust, a "Video Girl," who was sealed 25 years before, pops out through the screen. Then Shou and the video girl, "Ai," start a strange joint life for three months...

Video Girl Ai has examples of:

  • Adrenaline Makeover: Mai. She first appears in the manga in a school uniform, but when she returns with the role of Ai's destroyer, she wears a lot of black and a bustiér, miniskirt and a cool cape.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Pretty much everyone.
  • Anime Hair: Ai and her dome 'do with spirals on the sides. In some of the art, she's depicted with either green or purple hair, but its brown in the OVAs. On a lesser note, Takashi and his apparently natural side hair antennae, and Youta himself with his always spiky hair.
  • Anime Theme Song: Noriko Sakai's "Ureshii Namida"
  • Artificial Human: The Video Girls.
  • Big Brother Mentor: The adult, more mature Youta for Hiromu in Video Girl Len.
  • Big Fancy House: Youta, as the son of a famous and rich artist, lives in an incredible one.
  • Broken Bird: Natsumi Yamaguchi, Ayumi Shirakawa from Video Girl Len. Moemi almost becomes one.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Youta's problem at the beginning was more "Will Not Spit It Out", because it wasn't like he was afraid of being rejected; he was convinced that he would be rejected, without even knowing for sure how Moemi would react.
  • Cast from Lifespan: Mai can release her magnetic energy as powerful energy bolts to attack and kill people if it's needed, but doing this drastically reduces her own lifespan until she is reduced to nothing. Ai copied her technique to save Yota and Natsumi from Mai's wrath, destroying Mai on the spot, but losing her own life as well. Rolex forced her to live again to continue studying her, though.
  • Cherry Blossoms: The last chapter of the manga happens in April so the cherry trees are in full bloom. As Youta finally is reunited with Ai, never to be parted, Nobuko, Takashi and Moemi are pretty much showered in cherry petals.
  • Cool House: Youta's place is awesome, a far cry from so many prefab houses in Japanese cities, with stuff like a spacious living room, a lounge with a lowered pit in the floor, and skylights. Justified in that it was likely designed by his architect father.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Takashi purposely tries to look like a jerk, so Moemi would stop liking him and start paying attention to Yota. Unfortunately, this idea went horribly wrong.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Ai ends up strapped in this position by cable and other video equipment after being forced back into the Video world, as punishment for having fallen in love with Youta.
  • Declaration of Protection: Youta says "I will protect you, no matter what!" as he's trying to protect Ai from being destroyed by Mai.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Moemi comes dangerously close in the manga, after her Near-Rape Experience. Ai and Yota also approach it at different points.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Youta, only that he chooses the I Want My Beloved to Be Happy route rather than pursuing Moemi.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Mai's stance against Yota and Ai.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Of course it ends happily after Youta nearly slices himself to ribbons climbing a collapsing glass staircase in his attempt to rescue Ai. Oh wait, no it doesn't - in the OVA, it cuts to an open ending and in the manga it sets the stage for several more volumes of strife. Youta eventually has to fight through a brain block and sever Ai's connection with the physical world in order to save her from reverting back to a plain Video Girl. Only in the epilogue do you get a truly happy ending.
  • Fartillery: Len tries this to shatter Hiromu's unnatural and idealistic concept of women. It backfires, though.
  • Generation Xerox: Shou Moteuchi, the protagonist of Denei Shoujo ~VIDEO GIRL AI 2018~, is clearly this to his uncle Youta, at least at the beginning, with Shou having the same kind of problem with his love life that his uncle had over a quarter of a century before.
  • Genki Girl: Ai, Len.
  • A God Am I: Rolex. He is a "Creator"! He has many traits in common with the Demiurge of Gnosticism!
  • Important Haircut: Nobuko and later Moemi cut their hair short to imitate Ai, as a last desperate effort to keep Yota with them- Moemi goes so far as dressing like a tomboy and using a rude language, which counts as a 180º for her. Unfortunately, not even this worked.
  • Invisible to Adults: In Video Girl Len, Hiromu and Toshiki, who are both teenagers, can see the Neo Gokuraku store and enter and exit with ease, whereas Youta, who was once able to find the Gokuraku store easily when he was a teenager himself, can't even see it now that he's an adult. Gokuraku Video's old clerk, who now runs the Neo Gokuraku store, informs Youta outside the store that Youta's ability to see them disappeared once he reached adulthood.
  • JerkAss: Ayumi's handsome yet rotten ex-boyfriend in Video Girl Len.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Toshiki Karukawa is an irresponsible pervert who dates and dumps girls just like that and is constantly trying to peek at Len's panties or naked body. He would give his life for his friend Hiromu, shed tears of blood when Hiromu's initial crush went sour, took a good beating to save Hiromu and Ayumi from a gang, politely rejected Len when she felt she HAD to have sex with him to make her mission easier, etc. There's a reason for why this extremely lecherous boy was still capable to see the Neo Gokuraku, after all (and it shows quite the difference between "sex" and "emotions" as well).
  • Kiss Me, I'm Virtual
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Happens twice to Ai and once to Yota as part of Rolex's manipulations.
  • Lethal Chef: Ai was supposed to be a GREAT chef, but since she was played in a broken VCR... well, yeah. Youta still eats her cooking out of affection.
    • Averted in the anime, where only her first meal was terrible. She then overcame her instincts and was able to prepare much better food slowly and carefully.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Moemi thinks of Youta like a brother, and so she knows she can tell him that she's got a crush on his best friend. Pity he was about to confess his own feelings for her. He gets in a similar situation later where he admits that he loves Ai, but isn't necessarily in love with her.
  • Lighter and Softer: Video Girl Len uses less drama and more comedy that Ai.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: In fact, you can't even see the Gokuraku store if you're not a genuinely good person. Youta saw it for his selflessness regarding Moemi; the Lovable Sex Maniac Toshiki found the Neo Gokuraku along with Hiromu because he truly cared for his best friend, despite his lecherousness.
    • Of course, Video Girl Ai's toying with this trope is a pretty important plot point in the manga. For instance, Gokuraku Video's real role is to use Video Girls to obliterate their renter's ability to love. The pure hearted are, in the opinion of the people behind it, too vulnerable and good to deal with the harsh realities of love, and destroying their ability to do so through the loveless Video Girls is the only way to protect them. This was supposed to be Ai's purpose, but the broken VCR did for that. Later on, a rival The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday opens up across the road from Gokuraku Video named Neo Gokuraku, run by Gokuraku Video's old clerk after he resigned out of disgust, aiming to get to the Pure-hearted first, and give them Video Girls (apparently allowed to have emotions of their own, unlike the Gokuraku girls) who can help them through love's tribulations.
  • Love Hurts: Like, WHOA. This is Rolex's main motivation for the creation of Video Girls, as he considered love as a disease.
  • Made of Iron: Ai fell from a huge fall, tumbled down a concrete slope filled with sharp objects and ended crashing through a wall, suffering nothing but light bruises: even Ai herself was surprised for this.
  • Magical Girlfriend: Ai becomes the clumsy, well meaning version of this. Video Girls in general are supposed to Subvert and Deconstruct the idea.
  • Mama Bear: Ayumi's best female friend is fiercely protective of her. She hits Len when she tries to talk to her and carelessly mentions her bad rep, then yells at her it's all a lie. Later, when Len approaches her directly, the girl sees Len is really trying to help and explains the deal with Ayumi and her Jerkass ex-boyfriend.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Ai. Played With, as Ai's personality change from the broken VCR turns her tomboyish and Tsundere. All video girls are supposed to subvert this trope.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Rolex, the owner of the Gokuraku store. Mixes it with Knight Templar, to a degree.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration: Yota masturbates to relieve himself after spending a long and tense night sharing the bed with Moemi, who was completely naked except for a long jersey. To explain things out: An emotionally smashed Moemi was deliberately trying to excite and then reject Yota to make him forget about Ai, but Yota was desperately resisting and controlling himself because poor Moemi's Near-Rape Experience was still fresh on her memory. (Moemi was also counting on this to manipulate Yota, no matter how much she disliked the idea of playing dirty against Ai — she was that out of it and desperate.) The next morning, when Moemi prepared herself to return to her home, Yota asked his penis to "Withstand just until Moemi is out of sight and then he will give him his reward."
  • Matchmaker Crush: Youta, for Moemi and Takashi. Ai, for Youta and Moemi.
  • Mind-Reformat Death: Zigzagged twice. In one month, Ai will cease to exist due to the videotape reaching its run time, but in the meantime, the video company's malevolent CEO, Rolex, attempts a recall note  because she's faulty. Rolex tries this trope once by abducting Ai by stealing the cassette to erase it, but the store owner is able to save Ai's essence by redubbing (copying) it onto another cassette. In the finale, it's zigzagged again when Ai's videotape is almost over, and Rolex and Youta confront each other, with Rolex promising to fix Ai, but in a heart-wrenching betrayal, Rolex rewinds Ai's tape, rendering her mind and personality as if she had just met for the first time. However, a desperate plea from Youta brings her back to normal.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: In Video Girl Len, Ayumi's bad rep comes from nasty rumors about her sexual experience. She's so distraught over it that at some point she even gives in and tells Hiromu to do whatever he wants with her. He panicks and runs off, and Ayumi collapses in tears.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Moemi, in the manga
  • Parental Abandonment: Youta's father is never seen and his mother is explicitly said to be dead. Natsumi ran away from home at some point.
  • Poor Communication Kills: All. The. Time.
  • The Power of Love: Played with: When Natsumi is about to succumb to her illness and even loses the will to live, Ai and Takashi do the impossible to find her missing boyfriend and bring him to her hospital bed. Against all odds, they succeed, and being reunited with her boyfriend makes Natsumi recover the will to live: she is happy again, her vital signs quickly start to stabilize, much for the doctor's surprise for her miraculous recovery. Still crying tears of pure happiness, Natsumi thanks Ai... and then, she dies.
    • Youta is able to overcome the memory erase drug he's been given because The Power of Love is stronger than anything Rolex is capable of.
    • It's also a big part of Ai coming back as human at the very end.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: I! WON'T! QUIT LOVING! AI, ANYMORE!
  • Purity Personified: Played as a problem for Hiromu on Video Girl Len: his concept of women was so overly idealized that he refused to believe that girls of his age would do things like burping, smelling, stuffing themselves or even going to the bathroom, so Len's first task was trampling over these twisted concepts and making Hiromu see women as what they really were: just plain, normal human beings.
    • When Hiromu believes that Ayumi isn't a virgin anymore, he quickly gives up on her, claiming "she's on a different level now." Understandably, Len goes red with rage and tries to have sex with Toshiki to show Hiromu that losing her virginity wasn't going to make her less human than before, or much less planting a wall between them (he doesn't go through with it, though). Eventually she manages to open his eyes, which was only the first step...
  • Redemption Equals Death: Mai Kamio (manga only) and Ai herself at the end of the manga.
  • Robot Girl: Ai, Len, Mai
  • Second Love: Ai, for Youta
  • Serendipity Shock: Happens with both Youta and Ai, when Ai's essence returns to life as a permanent human being.
  • Sex Slave: What Video Girls could be if they weren't given to a boy with a pure heart. To make an experiment, Rolex gives Video Girl Mai to a boy who, unlike Yota, doesn't have a pure heart (and happened to be Nobuko's Dogged Nice Guy, too). He locks himself with Mai and spends a week having non-stop sex with her, without even bothering to eat or drink, until he collapses. Unfortunately, this horrible treatment was the base for Mai's Face–Heel Turn and her hatred against Ai.
  • Shadow Archetype: Ai Amano and Mai Kamio. Technically, Ai herself is the ultimate shadow archetype for all Video Girls.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Ai. She has no problem with getting in various states of undress, even in public, usually just to get a reaction out of Yota.
  • Shipper on Deck: Back when Youta was fretting over Moemi, Takashi was this for them. Even as he started dating her, he felt like he didn't know what to do as he felt upset by Youta's I Want My Beloved to Be Happy attitude at the cost of his own happiness.
  • Shrinking Violet: Moemi.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Youta and Ai.
  • Tsundere: Ai is a Type B aka Type Dere
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Nobuko and Natsumi.
  • Waterfall Puke: Ai's cooking is bad enough to cause this effect. It also currently provides the trope image.
  • Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: Ai twists this trope, in that she wasn't supposed to be the girlfriend, but fell for the lovable loser she was trying to improve.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Rolex truly believes he's saving mankind by trying to exterminate such a painful feeling as love.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Interestingly discussed here. Are video girls supposed to only obey orders and programming? Or do they have right to their own minds and feelings?
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Video Girl Mai becomes this, after ending up as a Sex Slave to a boy without a pure heart and going mad as a result.